About a year ago I told you all about my first experience with fish cheeks. Grouper cheeks, to be exact. I had been reading about fish cheeks on various other blogs and I was intrigued. When I happened to stumble upon some fresh grouper cheeks at a local fish market, I pounced! Those grouper cheeks turned into a delicious meal for my family and me and I couldn't have been happier. I couldn't believe that I'd never tried, or even known about fish cheeks before! Posting about them made me feel like I was part of the "in" crowd.
One thing that continued to nag at me though, was that I was never able to get my hands on the coveted halibut cheeks. Halibut cheeks are like the Rolls Royce of fish cheeks. They are sweet and flaky little morsels of fish that when cooked, take on a flavor and consistency similar to sea scallops, or dare I say it, lobster. And they just are not available in Florida - ever. Whenever I'd read a new post or find a new recipe for halibut cheeks, I'd feel a tiny little nudge in my gut, which was the realization that I'd probably never have an opportunity to get some of my own. Until Seattle, that is.......
Hmmm. Have I mentioned lately that I was recently in Seattle for the IFBC? Yes? Well,I won't bore you with all the details again, (although Part 3 of my Great Seattle Adventure is still in the works). I'll just skip to the part where I was standing at the Pike Place Fish Market and spied these little beauties.
Do you know what these are?
They're HALIBUT CHEEKS!!! Gorgeous, plump, shiny, pristine and fresh halibut cheeks! Tons of them!
I swear I got a little giddy just looking at that huge vat of cheeks. I think I may even have had to steady myself on the arm of this cute fish guy for a minute or two.
Once I regained my composure, however, I ordered five pounds of those halibut cheeks to go. Pike Place Fish ships their fish anywhere you want it to go, so I had my cheeks sent to my home Florida, along with my king crab legs, Copper River salmon and other assorted seafood delights. The fish arrived at my house the morning after I did. I shared some of my bounty with my mother and brother (but not too much), and packed the rest into smaller packages for the freezer. We'll be eating lots of fabulous fish this Summer at Chez SGCC!
After careful consideration and research, I decided to prepare my fist batch of halibut cheeks as simply as possible. I really wanted to taste the fish instead of masking it under a lot of extra stuff. I took the advice of others who knew better and lightly dusted them (the cheeks, not the others), with some seasoned flour mixed with a little corn meal and toasted hazelnut flour. Then, I pan fried them in a little butter and olive oil. I made some of my Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce to go along with them and served them on top of a nice little chopped salad for crunch and color.
So, how were they, you ask?
They really, really were. Their flesh had the most lovely, flaky, delicate texture. It was sweet and buttery beyond compare. Mr. SGCC and I barely spoke a word throughout the entire meal. We were too busy groaning with pleasure as we savored each and every one of those succulent little jewels of the sea.
When we had finished, the only thing that could console me was the knowledge that I still had two more pounds of halibut cheeks, just waiting in the freezer to be transformed into another wonderful feast!
If you ever come across halibut cheeks in your travels - get some. Don't even think about it. Just. Get. Some. Trust me, you won't regret it!
Simply Sauteed Halibut Cheeks
2 lbs fresh halibut cheeks
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/4-1/2 cup toasted hazelnut flour
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
Lemon or lime wedges for garnish
Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce (recipe follows)
Lightly season halibut cheeks with salt and pepper
In a pie plate or other flat rimmed dish, mix together flour, corn meal, hazelnut flour, salt and pepper.
Dredge halibut cheeks in flour mixture and pat off the excess.
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Adding 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil at a time, saute the halibut cheeks in batches until golden brown on both sides - about 2-3 minutes per side. Be careful not to overcook. They should have a consistency similar to sea scallops.
Serve with lime wedges and Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce.
Wicked Spicy Tartar Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons "Wickles" sweet and spicy pickle relish (with juice)
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce (depending on how much "spice" you want)
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
If you liked this recipe, here are some others from the SGCC archives that you might also enjoy:
Here are some other great halibut cheeks recipes to check out:Butter Poached Halibut Cheeks with Baby Bok Choy from The Endive Chronicles